Patients who are diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma face significant challenges, and only state-of-the-art treatment can help them. Unfortunately, for those who work in rural areas, that treatment is not readily available. Addressing that very real problem was the topic of recent meeting led by the chief executive officer of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. Cliff Hudis, MD, FACP, FASCO led a brainstorming session attended by physicians, rural health experts and other advocates aimed at closing the gaps in rural cancer care. The group targeted three main areas of improvement: local efforts, clinical trial access and telemedicine.
Those who live in rural areas face greater treatment challenges
Though many types of cancer have seen treatment improvements in rural communities, for patients with malignant mesothelioma that is not necessarily the case. This is due in part to a lack of healthcare professionals who are familiar with the rare illness and who can diagnose it quickly, but also to a lack of available treatment protocols in rural areas and access to faraway treatment. One of the things discussed at the meeting was the lack of resources to get patients to appointments.
Rural Access to Cancer Care Task Force announced
In response to the identified problems, the group has announced the launch of a program called Rural Access to Cancer Care Task Force, which will help those diagnosed with mesothelioma and other cancers through a four-pronged approach: greater provider education and training; workforce development; tele-oncology and research. Speaking of the program, Electra D. Paskett, PhD, Marion N. Rowley Professor of Cancer Research, College of Medicine, The Ohio State University said, “Local problems need local solutions. When we go into communities, we go in as partners and work with community members because they not only understand the problems but also the causes of the problem and the solutions.” She explains that they will recruit community leaders to help develop programs that emphasize physician visits and more. Federal funding is also a target of the program, particularly as the National Cancer Institute has changed their requirements of NCI-designated cancer centers to include community outreach and better serve rural populations. Though tele-medicine offers tremendous potential, the reality is that most rural communities currently lack the broadband needed to enable effective use.
Mesothelioma patients in rural communities need the same high level of care as those who live in metropolitan areas and near major cancer centers. For information on how to access state-of-the-art treatment, contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net today at 1-800-692-8608.